Askwith Debates- Beyond “Free College”: Improving Opportunity and Success at Community Colleges

August 21, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs

– Okay. Okay. All right. Good evening everyone. My name is Bridget Terry Long and I’m the Saris Professor
of Education and Economics here at the Harvard Graduate
School of Education. Welcome to the first Askwith
Debate of this semester. I want to recognize that many
are joining us online as well, in addition to the
audience that we have here. Before I introduce our speakers
I’d like to say a few words about the Askwith Debates. For those who have not been
able to attend previously. The Askwith Debates were
launched in 2016 with two goals. The first, to showcase leading thinkers exploring multiple angles
of a controversial topic; and the second, to provide examples of civil and respectful discourse to our students and broader community. The Askwith Forums and
Debates help strengthen the intellectual life here at HGSE, through conversation, debate
and the exchange of ideas. You may have noticed some advertisements for upcoming forums. Next week we’re gonna have three of them, from the Little Rock Nine, who desegregated Central
High School 60 years ago, to a discussion about immigration in DACA and talks by
the recipients of prizes for education development
and education research. So please keep your eyes open for those. And now back to the important conversation we’re gonna have this evening. So here this evening we’re gonna talk about higher education, and no doubt post-secondary
education is very important. While we might debate the
returns of one college versus another or
certain kinds of degrees, there’s no questions in the research and in the labor market trends that a high school degree is
not enough for most Americans to be able to support themselves. And while there is still some debate about framing it as college for all, we certainly do not see
families with the resources suggesting that we
should accept the notion that their kids should not go to college. Especially in a rapidly changing world, a degree, a certificate or
at least targeted coursework at a post-secondary institution is needed to continually adapt and
have the skills necessary to make a meaningful wage
and enjoy financial security along with a host of other benefits. And while we spend a lot of
time, the media in particular, on really selective, big,
private institutions, public research universities, the community colleges
are truly the backbone of the American higher education system. Community colleges serve a
diverse set of needs and goals, including providing a
second chance to students who struggled in high school, providing workforce training
and retraining and retraining all throughout the lives of workers, preparing students to transfer
to a four-year institution as a low-cost way to
get a bachelor’s degree, awarding certificates
and associate’s degrees, and a host of other community programs and non-credit courses that
oftentimes we don’t notice. But the story is even more telling when you realize the
share of the population that depends on community colleges as their point of entry for more education after high school. In fall 2014 community
colleges educated 42% of all undergraduates, and
among students of color that number is even higher. That year community colleges
educated 44% of black students. And the majority of Hispanic
and Native American students went to community colleges, with 56% of those groups
attending in 2014. Community colleges are
also the institutions that serve the bulk of
low-income students. One in three community college students have family incomes less than $20,000. That’s one in three, meaning
that these are students who are near or below the poverty line. So if we are serious about making progress in educating our population and we hold true to the
ideal of social mobility, we have to support the
work of community colleges. But that’s not what is
currently happening. While four-year colleges and universities have been struggling in
terms of their funding, they still have it much better than the community college system. Between 1999 and 2009, funding for public research universities exceeded the funding
for community colleges $4,000 to one, per student. It’s $4,000 to one per student. And other work has documented
just how reductions in funding have translated into fewer
resources for community colleges. After accounting for inflation, instructional expenditures per
full-time equivalent student fell 12% at community
colleges from 2001 to 2011, with additional reductions in expenditures on student services and academic support. So it’s not surprising,
given the limited resources and the needs of the
populations they serve, that many community colleges are falling short of their goals. Only 39% of first-time college students who entered a community college completed any kind of credential at any institution within six years. Now research that I’ve done with Michal Kurlaender at UC Davis, we make the case that it’s not appropriate to just compare the outcomes of community colleges
to other institutions and to fault them, given the students they’re serving. And we do have to acknowledge the fact that many students who
attend community colleges don’t do so with the
intention of getting a degree. But there’s no question
many students struggle to reach their goals
because of lack of supports, confusing and inadequate systems, affordability challenges
and a host of other reasons. Now far too many institutions, both two-years and four-years, have a student completion problem. But in order to move the
needle and make progress, community colleges know they
must address a wide range of circumstances, challenges,
assets and competing demands. For example at community
colleges, 69% of students work and 33% of those students
are working full time. So recently one solution that’s
received a lot of attention is free college. The reasoning is, if we could
just address the tuition costs then maybe we can
improve student outcomes. We heard this during the
presidential debate and campaigns. We’ve seen it happen in other countries. We’ve even had a few states who’ve implemented these kinds of plans in the last few years. The idea of free college has captured the attention of the country. But the free college movement doesn’t present an easy and quick fix. And many wonder if it’s politically and financially feasible. Recently even Oregon had to backtrack on making tuition free for
new community college students after high demand and limited funding stretched the budget too thin. Moreover, a free college policy would not not address all the challenges that students face. It may in fact create new
challenges for community colleges. So tonight we’re going to consider what would we gain with free college but also what else could be done or should be done to help students. What do we need to consider to make real improvements for
community college students? And so in just a second
I’m going to open up with some questions for the panelists, and at the end we’re gonna
try to save some time so we can entertain
questions from the audience. So here let me introduce the panelists. I’m gonna ask if you could
save your applause for the end. Let’s try to save a little bit of time and make sure that we can have as full of discussion as possible. To start we have Andrew Kelly, who’s the senior vice president
for strategy and policy of the University of
North Carolina system. In his work with UNC
President Margaret Spellings, Andrew is tasked with
enhancing and furthering the UNC strategic goals. Prior to joining UNC, Andrew was the former director of the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute. He’s published work in academic journals and popular outlets such
as The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Next to him we have
professor David Deming, my colleague here at the Ed School. He also has an appointment as professor of public policy
at the Harvard Kennedy School. David is director of the Inequality and
Social Policy program and also a research associate of the National Bureau
of Economic Research. His research includes work on the growth of inequality
in the United States, the impact of for-profit
colleges on student outcomes and the effectiveness of policies meant to improve degree completion. Recently he co-founded
the Climb Initiative, which is a partnership between
researchers, policy makers and a diverse group of
colleges and universities with the goal of understanding
the role of higher education in fostering social mobility. And then we have Josh Wyner, who is founder and executive director of the College Excellence
program at the Aspen Institute, where he also serves as a vice president. The College Excellence
program aims to advance higher education practices,
policies and leadership that significantly improve
outcomes for students. Josh has authored numerous publications, including a book, What Excellent Community Colleges Do: Preparing All Students for Success, which was published by the
Harvard Education Press in 2014. Josh is also an instrumental part of the Aspen prize for
community college excellence, which has become the nation’s
signature recognition of high achievement and performance among their community colleges. And then finally we have Deborah Santiago, who is co-founder, chief operating officer and vice president for policy
at Excelencia in Education. For more than 20 years she has led research and policy efforts to improve educational
opportunities and success for all students. Among her experiences, Debra has worked in the federal government
as a policy analyst and she served as the deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence
for Hispanic Americans. Deborah is an Aspen
Institute Pahara fellow and serves on the board of
the organization TheDream.Us. And now, please join me in welcoming our distinguished panel. (applauding) hmm? Thank you. So I’m happy to join them here on stage, and I’m going to kick them off
with a couple of questions. (laughing) Okay we are gonna start
with having our panelists give some introductory comments, and the question I’m posing to them, given the framing of the panel tonight, do you think free college
is the best way to go if we’re trying to support
community college students? And beyond that, in the
debate that’s been ongoing now for the last 18 months, what do you think hasn’t been considered in that debate that we
need to take into account? A softball, easy one.
– Great. Wow, first I want to say
I’m honored to be here, especially to be invited
by somebody like Bridget, whose work I followed for
years and have known for years. And I think the world of,
it’s hard to find somebody who’s had more of an influence on higher ed policy and
discussions than Bridget. Sorry, David. (laughing) And also to be here with some
of my favorite colleagues, who I don’t see nearly enough of anymore now that I’ve moved to North Carolina. These are the folks
that can drag me up here on a snowy afternoon, so honored to be here. It goes without saying, these are my views, not my employers’. My employers’, the University
of North Carolina system. We oversee the 16 four-year
colleges and universities in North Carolina and one
school of science and math, a high school, a magnet
school for students. We have everything from a
flagship research institution, Chapel Hill, NC State, a very high-powered research institution. We have five public HBCUs and
we have an arts conservatory, so we have pretty much everything you could ask for in a
system of higher education. So my views, not my employers’. I have the best job in the
world, though, I think. My job is I wake up every morning and think about how to get more kids to and through the UNC system. And I think the through is the piece that the free college movement has not paid nearly enough attention to. And so I want to make three
points in that regard. The first is that free college aims to fix the wrong
problem in my opinion. It focuses on affordability when student success is the
more pressing challenge. And in the process it may
even make it more difficult to focus on student success, by potentially starving
institutions of resources. And that’s the second point:
a free college program would put strain on public budgets, which will in turn affect
institutional capacity in ways that again will make it harder to increase student success rates, to serve students and serve ’em well. And then third, , the free college debate doesn’t pay sufficient attention to the unintended consequences
for student choice and student success of
creating a free public option. So the first point: aims
at the wrong problem. If you look at data on
net price of attendance, it’s true that most
students, many students who attend community
colleges are low-income. They qualify for Pell Grant. That’s why we should pay
attention to student success rates there in particular, but
it’s also why those students often don’t pay any
anything by way of tuition to attend a community
college in the first place. So the free tuition
programs would actually not deliver additional
benefits to those students, because their Pell Grant already
covers the cost of tuition. And that’s essentially
what you see in Tennessee. The lowest-income students in Tennessee, their tuition’s covered
by their Pell Grant, and so what you wind up with is a system where it’s a windfall for middle class and upper middle class students, who would likely have paid anyway to attend community college, but the free tuition benefit,
the buy-down if you will, goes to them as opposed to
the to lower-income students. Now everybody faces
living expenses and so on, so I’m not suggesting
that it’s free-free to go, but most of the plans
we’ve been discussing are free tuition plans, so I will say that that’s
part of the logic though, so I wanna make make clear that part of the logic of
the folks who are advocating for free college, and I
think it’s actually smart in many respects, is part of logic is that Universal programs are
easier to understand and use, and they’re also insulated often from from political changes, right, so means-tested programs,
there’s been pretty good evidence it’s in political science in particular, that means-tested programs are often even more easily targeted
for for cuts and so on. So I do think it’s
important to acknowledge that some of the advocates
don’t see the windfall to the broader population
as a bug, but as a feature. So the second thing, the second
point, and it’s related, is a free college program puts
a cap on tuition essentially. What it really says is that what an institution has
available to spend is dependent entirely on what the public
is willing to invest. So no longer can an institution
raise additional revenue via tuition or by via
recruiting more students. It’s entirely based on
how much the legislature, if it’s the state, is willing to invest. So the problem with that is,
if legislative generosity or public generosity doesn’t
keep pace with growth in enrollments or changes
in the cost of delivery, institutions are faced with a choice. They can either ration access
because they don’t have the money to enroll additional students, or they can degrade
quality, they can sort of lower the quality of the
product they’re offering, which of course has implications
for student success. Examples of this abound. In the middle of the recession, the California community colleges, they have among the lowest
community college tuition in the country, and
that’s fixed and capped. As a result when the recession hit and state funding dropped
and more and more students were arriving at their door, they had to turn away students. So they turned away, estimates suggest, around 600,000 students over
the course of the recession. They reduced course
offerings by about 20%. So ironically this push for free college, you can see this actually in
the experience in England. So England actually went
the opposite direction. They had free tuition for many years. There were concerns,
including among progressives, that not enough low-income
students were getting access to the British university system. So they actually freed up tuition pricing, created loan program,
and access has gone up and completion has gone up for low-income students in particular. – Andrew, two really great points. – Yes. I can stop there.
– Bring another. I’m gonna give you
additional chances to talk. – Absolutely, I’ll stop there. I figured I wanted to get it all in before these guys start. (laughing)
– Take over. – So thank you, also very
pleased to be here with you all. You know I thought long
and hard about this too, because we deal great
deal with populations, very low-income, first-generation, and a lot of public policy
work is so focused on access. So three reasons I think that free college is good, and then three
reasons why I think we’re missing the boat on
court issues and challenges, I’m still there, so I think it’s a simple and a clear message. And you don’t wanna underestimate that, especially with populations
that believe college, don’t even know that it’s an opportunity. And so saying something like
that is really powerful. Like educating all,
it’s a great sentiment. There’s some challenges there but so I do think it’s a simple
clear message, you get it, people think, free, so that’s something. Second I think it addresses the issue, we believe research has found why students don’t go or
complete, and time and time again we hear it’s about affordability. And so it tries to address that. How we define affordability,
that’s another issue, but so these are the positives. And the third I think is in some ways we’re looking at public
investment in higher ed at a time where we’ve
seen some retrenchment, some could argue depending on states, but we’re seeing an infusion in investment in higher
education and community colleges, although really interested
and focused on individuals, so I think there’s a lot of positive in the way it’s framed and the messaging. And we live in public policy,
it’s all how you frame it, it’s all the acronym, it’s
how you talk about it. The devil is always in the details. And I think we want to
have a rigorous discussion about the details, because how do you define affordability? If it’s just tuition, and I completely agree
with Andrew’s point, then is it really addressing the students who have the largest need if they’re already being
covered with federal aid? Things like transportation,
childcare, food insecurity, those issues aren’t really addressed in many of the programs
that we’ve looked at per se. So defining affordability
as tuition and fees doesn’t get you the whole
enchilada as it were. The intent behind a
clear and simple message. So I think that hasn’t been considered. I think secondly, the idea of providing
access with free college makes a lot of sense. It’s like this idea of equal opportunity that we all are so committed to. I think the challenge comes in, is equal opportunity enough? I think we have to acknowledge
where we are today, that this doesn’t necessarily
address equitable opportunity. Just like, it’s equal opportunity because we’re treating everybody the same. It’s free for everyone doesn’t
address those components, and that speaks to student success about the wraparound support
that’s needed for students. And fundamentally the
assumption that we all starting from the same place. And I think there are lost opportunities, especially in public
policy, when we all believe we need that silver bullet. And if the silver bullet’s free college, then we can we can drop
the mic, we did our bit. We say, that student’s in the door, and it’s like (speaking foreign
language), we got you in, it’s up to you to get through. And that sends a message that’s incomplete and feels like a false promise. And if we don’t address some
of that equitable component, then maybe we’re doing a disservice to this free college idea. And I guess the third part of this is it doesn’t address the issue of quality, because the resources are on behalf of the individual student. And I worry that, so the institutions don’t have the opportunity to address quality in quite the same way if they’re chasing after
their student in access. And are we addressing the
quality of the institution students are going to in
a way that allows them to gain the full promise of
what we’re trying to offer, and that is a quality college education. To be a good citizen, to be
effective, be a good employee, to have a strong workforce. – Okay thank you Deborah; Josh? – Yeah, so I agree with a
lot of what’s been said. I think free college, I’m for it, because I think it’s a
simple blunt instrument to get towards some
increased public investment. As Andrew, you suggested, it’s
not a bug but it’s an asset. But also, to ensure greater access, and it’s dealing with
affordability in a general sense. And it’s not dealing with a
lot of these other issues. But the notion that if we expand access and public investment in higher ed, that all these other
issues are gonna go away, I just don’t buy. I mean fundamentally we
can do multiple things at the same time, and so
let’s talk a little bit about, so I’m all for free community
college, and free college. I think it’s a good way,
I mean imagine a world where we didn’t have free high school. Where that was means-tested. Just imagine the world today
in this political climate where that was the case. We’re trying to flip that script. Doesn’t mean we don’t, because we have free
high school doesn’t mean we’re not trying to improve
the quality of high school or improve graduation rates. So to me, I think it’s sort of, to say that it doesn’t address that issue is, of course it doesn’t address that issue. There are other ways we
have to address that issue. So I think when we think
about what we need to do, at the same time we’re
thinking about free college I think there are two
fundamental things we need to do. One is we’ve got to raise the
sights of community colleges just one step further. So for 50 years community colleges were access-expanding institutions. It was all about access
to workforce development and access to the first two
years of a bachelor’s degree. And we did a great job of that. And then about 15 years ago we woke up and we realized that we have
about a 30% completion rate. We can argue about whether it’s
40% if you include transfer, but it wasn’t good; access isn’t enough. So we moved from what I call 1.0 access to community college 2.0,
access plus completion. And so we’ve got to work on completion. We’re not gonna do that through
the financing mechanism. We’ll talk about how we get there. I think it’s fundamentally
a matter of leadership and data use, but I’ll
talk about that later. But now we need to raise the
sights of community colleges. If we really want the institutions to be engines of social mobility
and talent development, which is what I think
they are at their best, we’ve gotta raise our sights
to post-graduation success for community college students. There are two places they go. We know that they transfer
to four-year schools. And unfortunately only about 40% ever get to a four-year
school, even though 80% say that’s what they want. And we’ve got to make sure they graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Only 15 or 20% ever get
a bachelor’s degree, folks who start in community college. So we’ve gotta deal with that
issue as a quality issue. Again I don’t think free
community college is gonna have an impact on it either way, frankly. And then number two they’ve
got to go to the workforce. So many students are in career and technical education programs, from welding to allied health professions to information technology degrees that have free-standing
labor market value. The problem there, as we know about from Tony Carnevale’s
research at Georgetown, that about half of the credentials that community colleges confer don’t yield family-sustaining wages. They require the completion
of a bachelor’s degree, or they’re in areas of the
workforce that are low-wage work. So I think we’ve fundamentally
gotta raise the sights of community colleges
to 3.0, which is access, and I think free college helps with that, completion, I think free
college can help with that, but post-graduation success, and I think we’ve got to address
that through other means. And I’ll talk about that a little later. So that to me is the big challenge, but I think suggesting that
the free college movement is gonna address that issue, I’m not sure it’s gonna have
much of an impact either way. – Okay, thank you Josh. All right, David, I
gave you the tough job. What haven’t we already said? – Yeah, well thanks
Bridget, thanks everybody. It’s a treat to be here
with you guys today. I think to answer the question about whether free college is a good idea, whether it’s worth
supporting, depends very much on the frame in which you’re operating. So I’m an economist, I work on education. I think a lot about benefits, hardheaded benefit cost calculations. If societal resources are
scarce, how should we use them? And if you’re asking me the question, among competing public priorities, where does higher education rank? I think it should rank much
higher than it currently does. So I think that we as states
and as the federal government should be spending more,
investing in the skill development of our society. I think that was true 100 years ago, it’s even more true now. Because work is more
focused on what’s up here and less focused on machines
and all those thing. And so I think we should be, as a nation, prioritizing higher education. So that’s a question about resources going from important
things like health care and social services toward education. I actually think we should do that. There’s a second question which is, give me a fixed pot of money, and how should I use it within
the higher education space? And there I think the
answer is more complicated. Because the goal, as Andrew
started to talk about, the goal is not make
colleges cheap as possible. The goal is produce as much
educational value as you can with the resources you have. And that includes completion,
but it also includes learning. Or what happens, it’s not
just completing a degree, if the degrees isn’t
teaching you anything. It’s also looking at labor
market outcomes and other things that are kind of ultimate measures of whether, or one sort
of ultimate measure, of whether you learned anything in school and whether it was worthwhile. And so the question becomes
is making college free, holding resources constant
the way to do that? And I think it isn’t and I
think the reason it isn’t is because when most people
think about the value of a college education,
they’re fixating on the price, but the other thing is what
are you getting for your money? And the worry I have with free college is if we hold resources constant and we lower the price to zero, we get a lot more students in there, but it’s still the same pool of resources divided over many more people. And so if resources matter at all, and we have lots of
reasons to think they do, then what’s gonna happen,
it’s gonna be larger classes, less student support, you can’t get into the classes you want. This is the California story and the story that’s replicating itself in many other states. And so I think we have
to think about that, which is how do we get
more people through? How do we increase, I mean
there’s one thing which is how do we make sure that
society prioritizes education? So we spend more money; I’d be for free college
if we could pay for it, but if we can’t pay for it, how do we make resources go farther? And there I think we really
need to think creatively about whether the federal government can do something to
support states’ spending on the quality aspects of higher ed, something I’m happy to talk
about more as we go on. – Okay, I think David’s kind
of setting up the next stage. So–
– Clean-up. – Thank you.
– Well done. – One thing I really pride
myself about with this community that I absolutely love, it’s
not enough to just complain about what the problems are, we actually do want to
pivot and say, okay, if free college is not the perfect policy and there are many things we could do to support community college students, what could we do? And so that’s what I’ve
really pressed the panel in our preparation, what could we do to improve outcomes for community college students? So I’m gonna pass it back to them and say, if not free college, then what? What would you prioritize
in terms of investments to try to improve outcomes for
community college students? – Want me to start again?
– Go for it. – All right, I mean, I
get first crack of this. I appreciate the statement
about not just complaining about problems but actually
solving some of them. I’ve had to make that transition from working at a think tank, now working for a system
of higher education. Make no mistake, it’s much harder to figure out the solutions. So if only there were one silver bullet to figuring out the issues that
face our community colleges. I think the easy answer
that somebody might say is they might pull off the
shelf the latest work from MDRC, where they stated an intervention at that CUNY community
college, accelerated study an associate program ASAP. Yeah I think the outcomes
from ASAP are remarkable. It passes a cost-benefit test. As far as we can tell from MDRC I think– – [Bridget] Why don’t
you describe a little bit about what ASAP is. – So ASAP is really kind of
a cocktail of interventions, if you will; it’s sort of a mix of things. It brings a group of
community college students together typically those who are eligible for developmental education,
puts them into a cohort. They go to school on a block schedule. They get a tuition waiver,
they have to enroll full time, they get a Metro Card, they
get free books, they get, I’m probably missing a few things, but they get pretty much
every support that they can. There’s a bunch of extra
advising and counseling. And they found that ASAP essentially doubles graduation rates. And they’ve found it
over a three-year span. It doubles graduation rates or on a three-year graduation rate. Pretty impressive; the cost
upfront is it more expensive, but the cost per degree is much lower, because you’re producing
a lot more graduates. But I think the issue
there is a couple things. Number one, we don’t know what’s
really doing all the work. It would be nice to actually
know kind of a little bit more about which of those levers
are really moving the needle. And then also like scaling
that in a different place. ASAP, people don’t necessarily know this, but ASAP was homegrown,
ASAP was born at CUNY. And then MDRC came in to evaluate it, so the CUNY people have
been at ASAP for a long time and they built it, so I’m
always a little skeptical that you can just take something
like that off the shelf and implement it somewhere else. Not that it’s not worth trying, but I think I’d be a little skeptical. So if I’m forced to choose, I’m gonna say guided pathways
with significant advising. So I think, and this is
where I think Tom Bailey and his colleagues, the
book that they wrote about redesigning community colleges, are most compelling. The current model is the cafeteria model. Students come in, students
who are often struggling in high school come in, and they can sort of pick and choose. It’s a smorgasbord of
course offerings and so on. They don’t necessarily pick
a program from the start that they, and then there’s no program map that follows them all the way that guides them all the way through, along with some active,
intrusive advising. The one thing I will say, as somebody who sits at a
four-year college system, I think the pathways, to Josh’s point, they need to be seamless pathways, all the way through to
a bachelor’s degree. I think the guided pathways
work has done a lot in terms of making the path of
the associate’s degree clear. Not so much I think on
the transfer pathway, and I would just shout out
a couple of our institutions as a shameless plug. UNC Greensboro has signed on
to co-admission agreements with Rockingham Community College, Guilford Community College and Alamance, and students get admitted
to both institutions. And you if you’re an Alamance
community college student, you can go spend time at UNC Greensboro, be on campus, go to sporting events, kind of learn your way around. So then when you go back to
take your classes full time it’s not such a new experience. So I think the guided pathways
work is really impressive. I think ASAP’s kind of a souped-up version of the guided pathway, but
that’s that’s what I would say we should put our money on. – Okay, guided pathways.
– Yeah. – We’re going in order.
– Okay. No, it is true it’s harder to figure out what the answer is. I think a lot about what would it look like if
we put the student first? If we address what does a student need and how do we better articulate
the return on investment that we ultimately all get from it? It’s hard, to me so I get to the point of are we framing our goal well? We often then focus on what’s efficient, and what’s efficient
isn’t always effective. And education is a human
enterprise, so I’m framing, sorry, but I will get to your answer, it does matter how we frame this, just like free college sounds great, educating all sounds great. And how do we ultimately get there? So if you put the student first, what does the education look like? And how do we talk about it in a way to buy ourselves more money to do it well? The students we’re trying to do right by. That benefit us ultimately, it’s not just about the benefit to them. And I do think that that matters
and if we frame that well, we can get to some of it. So what are the kinds of things that, I think if I had to pick one, because I do live and breathe in DC and I am a recovering civil servant, I did work in the federal government. We all want that that silver bullet and I think mine is a little bit of a, I do think it ultimately
becomes an issue of alignment. For putting students first,
I think guided pathways is one approach to that. What we’ve seen ultimately, and holds a lot of promise,
but it’s a combination, I do think it is how we use the data with the students we have. Part of my challenge, my
organization honored ASAP for doing a really good job. It forces students to be traditional, it forces them to be
traditional to get the benefits that we know happen with
the research we’ve done in traditional ways;
that’s not a bad thing. What about all those other students that aren’t quite able to do that in the traditional pathway,
go full time 15 credits? And you we have a lot of great campaigns to try and get there. I do think that institutional change that puts student first and figures it out has to be authentic, so
it’s not a silver bullet. But again, now the public policy hat, I do think that tracking the student, that what they do is portable, what they do is something
that stays with them, so they can get to and
through to complete. Whether it’s credits, an
experience is something we need to value more, like competency-based education, others. There are ways we put together the reality of a higher education
approach to individuals. We’ve got a lot of tools out there, but we look at them disparately. So I think the alignment of those efforts prior learning assessments,
CBE’s, all those things. Community colleges are doing
them in disparate ways, they’re not necessarily aligned. Sometimes it’s because they’re
having to chase resources to do them, so I do think
we have lots of tools in our toy chest. I think the alignment of them, to pull them out as students need is what we need to be
doing a better job of. – Okay so we have two answers that are about alignment,
and interestingly enough don’t necessarily
involve a lot more money. – Right.
– Interesting. Two very practical perspectives. Let me open it though to Joshua and David. What if we did have more money? – I mean I have an answer
that involves more money. – Okay, let’s, if we had more money, if we were in that that world. – So I mean I think that
solutions like guided pathways and alignment and developing leaders and getting the right people in place that can implement policies like ASAP is a very important piece of
success in any organization, but I think also if
you’re maybe more focused on policy like I am, I would think about what are the policy levers we can pull that don’t rely on finding a change agent within an organization, or
finding exceptional talent? Something we can just
do as a policy-maker. And so one idea, not the
only idea, but one idea is a brief that I wrote
for the Hamilton Project about a year ago now called
Increasing College Completion with a Federal Matching Grant. And the idea behind it is that for largely idiosyncratic
reasons, higher ed funding from the state operates very differently than a higher ed funding
from the federal government. In particular the state tends
to fund higher education on the supply side, meaning
on the institution side, so universities get big appropriations, block grants essentially. Sometimes they’re targeted
but they’re grants directly to public institutions
from state taxpayers. And the federal government
subsidizes at the student levels, on the demand side, by giving
grants like Pell grants Stafford loans, things like that. So the federal government does
not subsidize institutions, it subsidizes students, and
that money follows the student wherever they go. And what’s happened over time is for a variety of political reasons, states’ budgets have been really tight, in part because states
can’t run a deficit. They mostly balance their budgets. And so when they have lean years, they have to cut somewhere
and healthcare is often an entitlement, and so what’s
the biggest discretionary item in states’ budgets? It’s higher ed, and so
state budgets fluctuate kind of wildly and they’re
always under pressure for higher ed, and so
on the spending side, you’re getting a lot of fluctuation and a kind of steady downward trend. And then the federal
government is kicking in more and more and more
money to subsidize higher ed on the demand side, on the price side. And so Pell grants getting more generous, Stafford Loans are getting more generous, and state funding is going down. So my worry with a lot of
things what happens is, you have these state-level
initiatives to make college free, and then the states say
great, we can disinvest. And so you get less money coming in and essentially you make it free by spending less per student
than you previously did. And so one way to try to counteract that is for the federal government
to reverse the trend of only investing on the student side and to give essentially a matching grant, the way Medicaid works in many states, where for every dollar this
state spends on higher ed, the federal government
kicks in another dollar or another two dollars or
whatever you want it to work out. And so that way, you could
calibrate a policy like that so that any free college plan, if a state wanted to implement that, would be spending-neutral from the perspective of the student. So you get more students, but
the per student allocation of money would stay the
same or something like that. And so essentially you’re
giving states an incentive not to disinvest like they have
from policies like Medicaid. Actually it’s kind of the
opposite for higher ed now, because when states raise their tuition, they know that the Pell
grant’s gonna kick in and counteract some of that,
and so they actually have a disincentive to invest in higher ed now. So kind of reversing that downward trend, I think, would do something,
especially if you think that spending matters,
which I think it does. It would do something
to arrest this decline at the state level; that’s one idea. – Okay. Josh.
– So when I go to colleges, so I
don’t come from a policy lens or with a particular idea
of how to fix a problem. I think in any policy class or any time you’re examining a
problem, you’ve gotta ask what the problem is,
what’s the major problem? So the prior study from
MDRC, prior to ASAP, one of them was on learning communities. Random assignment at Kingsborough community college worked great, and in three other colleges
didn’t work at all, and in one it was sort of moderate, but it was great at Kingsborough. And what was the difference, leadership. It was the culture of the institution, and the capacity of the
institution to do the work. And David, I would actually
argue that we don’t even know whether we can affect
culture ’cause we’ve never made an investment in
higher ed in human capital and leadership at a national level, and I think relatively few states have actually gone at this. So what are the problems? I mean it’s remarkable, in K-12, we talk about
the quality of instructors and the quality of principals, and the Broad foundation
put a big investment in superintendents, and what
are we doing in higher ed? It’s as though the human
beings don’t matter. And so I think the relative
investment that should be made, we can talk about where it comes from, I’m not sure it’s a federal investment, oughta be in leadership. So what are the problems? Well the problem starts,
actually, at the board level. If you look at how, you
know 75% of all students are in public institutions. Almost all community colleges are public. How are the boards, they’re either elected or they’re appointed, and
often those appointments come from the same people who
are appointing people for the Public Service Commission. It’s the boards and commissions, entity at the state level, that’s deciding who those appointed, and they’re not trained
at all, so problem one, we haven’t thought
about the boards at all. Number two, boards hire presidents, many board members are alumni and they have a very
nostalgic view of higher ed. The nostalgic view of higher ed is if we can market and
get our enrollments up, we’re great. Bodies and buildings,
that’s what defines quality. That’s not what we need today. We need focus on student success. They don’t understand how to hire. We need training on how to hire presidents who can do the work, and then we need leadership development programs. We need a state-by-state
and national investment, both saying this matters
and investing in it. There are only 1,000
community college presidents in this country; I can count to 1,000. There are 10 million
community college students. I can’t count that high. What are we doing to
invest in these folks? And if we’re gonna see ASAP, and I’ve been involved in
the guided pathways movement, I completely agree with you, Andrew, that that is a very promising movement, but I’ve worked now as part of a group that’s worked with 30 colleges,
and I’ve seen the data on implementation, and
it works in some places and it’s not working in others. And the difference is leadership. And so I think we’ve got to
think about an investment in leadership, that
states oughta put money behind leadership development
through the institutions, but particularly at
the presidential level. I would say it’s even more important at higher ed in than K-12, because at the K-12 level at
least you have superintendents who can set policy and
boards that set policy. Each institution, each
of the thousand-plus community colleges, decides
on its own curriculum, pretty much on its own. I mean they’re even more independent. We have seen great institutions
where leaders are able to move the culture of the institution, dramatically improve outcomes. We see this in the Aspen
prize and it is always, always a huge component is the
culture and leadership of the organization,
which can be impacted. We know ways it can be
impacted, through HR systems, through data use systems,
through through a bunch of things that can be done at the
institutional level. But we need people who
ascend to the presidency and are chosen for it who
really have the capacity to do that work and the
commitment to do that work. So that’s where I would
invest and we can talk about who oughta do the investing. I don’t think it’s the federal government, which is why I don’t think
free college is the way at the biggest problem that we face. – Okay, we’re gonna come
back to funding issue in a moment, but we keep
talking around this question about scale and whether
it’s done from the top down or the bottom up. We do have some examples
where great leadership or ASAP or guided pathways work
at one institution, but isn’t this a problem of scale? We’re talking about millions
and millions of students. How do we take something that
we find works in one state or one institution or one leader, and spread that more broadly? (inhales sharply) The first one was a
softball, now I’m, you know. – Isn’t that like the
three-trillion-dollar question? What’s the entire education
budget in the United States? It’s like, that’s the
that’s the whole enchilada. As Deborah said. How do we take it to scale? Well I do want to make
one thing clear, which is, I do think guided pathways
need not be super-expensive, need not be as expensive as,
say, a free college program. But there is investment necessary, ’cause it’s the guided piece, I think that’s most important there, it’s not just laying out the pathways, but actually having the intrusive
advising sort of kick in and nudge people back onto the path. Some of that you can automate, but a lot of it has to be a
human being picking up the phone or being being available
to answer questions. In terms of scale, I mean, I don’t think I have a great
answer to it, unfortunately. I think a lot of it has
to do with leadership, as Josh pointed out. This is why I’m skeptical
of the federal involvement in terms of, like a federal matching grant is interesting to me, but I do think it’s different for Medicaid in that Medicaid’s means-tested, so only certain people
can get Medicaid services. Whereas a block grant– – Make the matching grant
means-tested for colleges that serve high shares of poor students. – I mean, you could you could base it on the institution’s share, sure, yeah, so that’s one one way you
could do it, but I do think the federal involvement, say in K-12, with the School Improvement Grants, I mean it has been sort of a morass. It has not been successful
by most measures. Some people have found local
effects on some of the schools that have been part of it. I think it’s more of, I tend
to be a little bit biased on this now, but I think
it’s a more of a state issue to focus on, Josh is right on
the community college side. We have a system in North Carolina of 58 community colleges with 800 trustees who are in charge, 800 trustees on these 58 boards of trustees. And so there’s just no, I mean, how do you implement something in the North Carolina
community college system? It’s difficult if not impossible,
especially with fidelity. So I mean, color me a skeptic, I do think a lot of this is putting the right people in the right place,
giving them the resources. So it’s a combination of those two things, but it’s hard, there’s no answer about how to scale. – I just have two thoughts about scale. One is we’ve gotta get better data reports that are standardized to
the college leadership. A lot of people think
that colleges don’t want the information; we often
think about the information about graduation rates
and what students earn after graduation as going
directly to the consumer. I’m not terribly convinced
that that’s gonna make a big difference. I think colleges are the
consumers of that information, and leadership wants the information, and we need to get it to them. This ban on the student
unit record system, your boss tried to fight that,
the good fight, a decade ago. The ban on the student
unit record system is just, it’s indefensible as far as I’m concerned. There are plenty of ways
of protecting privacy; the ban on trying to connect to what actually happens
to students as a group in terms of what the
outcomes are, indefensible. So I think we need much better data that, with the target of being college
leadership that can start to end programs that don’t have
strong value at the back end and modify those that can be modified and beef up the ones where
there are good outcomes. So I think, one, for
scale that would help. The second is I want to
just give a shout out to, actually the American
Association of Community Colleges has done this work on guided pathways, where they bring for two
years, multiple times, teams of individuals,
leaders from the institution, who work through creating
the clear guided pathways, who work through how to
modify the advising system. And each of them learns what
the research says, but then has time away from campus
to actually think through what their plans and how they’re gonna adopt those reforms themselves. I think more investments where you invest in the individuals, you push them and say, you’ve gotta come up with
plans towards this end, actually has seen some
pretty good results. The Community College
Research Center at Columbia, at Teachers College, has done research and we’re seeing pretty
good results from that. So I think in terms of scale,
we need to start thinking about, not, here’s this technical
solution and the research, throw it against the wall
and it’s gonna be adopted. It doesn’t work that way. But actually bringing teams
from colleges to convenings with tasks to do and then
bringing them back together to hold each other accountable and to support one another and the work. I think it actually can work, I think the University Innovation
Alliance is proving that, in some ways. The American talent initiative, which Harvard is part of,
we’re starting that work to try to increase for four-year colleges the number of low-income students that they are enrolling and retaining. So I actually think groups of colleges that stop seeing each
other solely as competitors and start seeing each others
as a collection of institutions designed to achieve a public
good and to support one another through that process could
actually be a way to scale. But it’s gonna require an infrastructure that is decentralized. I think the state is a great way to do it. – Okay, but you’re talking
about a number of things that revolve around a lot of people time. So whether it’s them working
together differently, working in teams, using data. And a question that I received
ahead of time from colleagues over at Bunker Hill Community College. If you think a bit about the
faculty, so in K through 12 we talk a lot about what are
we gonna do with the teachers? We’re gonna train the
teachers, support the teachers, but we don’t really do that in higher ed. And these colleagues described, you have community college
faculty have workloads of five sections per semester. They have these high workloads,
how are, given the fact that they’re already
strapped for their time, how are they going to learn
to do things differently? How are we going to support them, knowing that we have
many faculty out there who care deeply about their students but don’t have a lot of free
time to think about new plans? How do we scale things beyond
some of the early adopters who are investing in it? – So I think we should take a
lesson from Valencia College, where they have a tenure
system that’s five years long, and every faculty member at the beginning of their tenure process has to decide what teaching practice
they want to get better at. They have a definition of
what a great teacher is, and their tenure process is
designed to do action research in the classroom and get
better at what you do, supported by a really good
teaching and learning center. And so I think, I completely agree that we leave faculty out of the equation. But if you go onto the campus of Valencia and you ask folks, how do you
know if students are learning? Nobody says, I know because
I’m giving them grades. They’ve all come through
a system that rewards them for attempting new things,
for trying new methods of teaching beyond the lecture
that really really works and has them engaged,
and that extends over to redesigning advising systems
and all the other things that need to be done,
creating guided pathways. So I think we’ve gotta ask ourselves that second part of the
question on human capital, which is how do we engage
faculty, not just in completion but in teaching and learning, in excellence in teaching and learning? How do we do that authentically
on a college campus so that faculty don’t feel as
though they’re an afterthought or we’re asking them to
dumb down what they do? And again I think that’s a question of leadership and culture,
but it can be created. And I think we can teach
the ability to do that and Valencia, if you haven’t been, across higher ed I have not
seen a better system structure for getting faculty to
understand what it is that’s expected of them and
to feel authentically engaged and really enjoy it. This is not top-down, this
is, I love to try new things in the classroom, I give
you just fantastic examples that spread across the campus. So to me I would go right to
classroom teaching practice and engagement with faculty
on how to make that better. – Yeah I think part of the
challenge of the scaling piece is that there is a lot of resistance, because we’ve always done things
the way we should do things and you know the people that
need to adapt are the students. The students need to change,
and the challenge of scaling is that we’re not a unified system. Higher ed is purposely
diverse and decentralized, and with all the trustees and
all those things going on, I think part of what we have to do is bring together the Coalition
of the Willing and have them be the trendsetters that are
going to fundamentally address who our students are
in community colleges. Which is not often how we in public policy perceive them to be, because
we have a antiquated view. Even our data, two-year lag, because you’ve got to break
things, their iPads and such, and change is happening faster than that. I do think that faculty, and we do a lot of work with
institutions on the ground, administrators on the ground, select, they see what’s happening
day in and day out. And we don’t have to
talk to them about that. I know I’m in DC, and we have these great
esoteric conversations. We’re gonna solve it
ourselves, and it’s scale. You lose the face of the
student and while you’re doing ’cause you have to address that. I mean what’s 100,000 students
when you’re trying to serve three million, four million,
17 million, 18 million? So I do think our strategy has been like, let’s work with this
Coalition of the Willing. We can spend all of our time
trying to convince people that this one silver bullet
is the silver bullet. And in the process there’s
a lot of carnage in between, including students who are
in the system right now and not getting it. But then investing in supporting the Coalition of the
Willing who are willing to try and pilot and make sure that the students are addressed. I think that’s, it seems
trite, but it’s not. I mean because there is no silver bullet. What’s authentic to one
institution, Valencia, we work with them, great,
they struggle sometimes at the University of Central Florida, but then they work
together and it’s magical for lots of students,
but not all students. I struggled with what’s the one answer that we could do across a
system that’s so diversified? I didn’t think we have
that, what we don’t have is momentum to do something
different for the students we have today. Other than trying all kinds of
big-scale efficiency things, and I know that’s horrible
to say, I also say economics, but the challenge of the human enterprise of what
we’re trying to come across is really challenging. – Okay.
– Can I say just one thing about the teaching piece. – Sure.
– ‘Cause I think it’s so important. We sort of treat it as a total black box, and for lots of reasons, right? Reasons that people who have
offices in this building appreciate, (chuckling)
academic freedom and all that, there’s not a whole lot of
attention to teaching quality as, I took a probably like a one-credit course when I was a grad student on
how to teach undergraduates. Wasn’t particularly
effective, so. (chuckling) No offense, it wasn’t
designed to be, frankly. So a plug though for anybody out there who’s working on a dissertation. I’m sure there’s somebody out there. Look at at teaching effects
in higher education. There’s almost nothing on it. – That’s true.
– David Figlio and colleagues did something on adjuncts, I think, at Northwestern, and Matt Chingos.
– Eric and I did as well. – I’m sorry, yeah.
– In Ohio. – Matt Chingos did a piece on community colleges where actually found a set of community college faculty that, and the course had a standard exam, which is often what we’re missing. The K-12 people have those
wonderful standardized tests where they can just kind of evaluate value added over and over and over again, but, a plug, please look
at it, even just basic, you know, does teaching experience matter, do credentials matter? Like all the questions that they answered 20 years ago in K-12 I think are unanswered for us. So.
– Yeah. So inside the classroom,
definitely being very important, lots of work that could be done there. But many of the solutions
that you proposed had to do with academic pathways, what’s happening in the
classroom, academic leadership, but as Deborah said, we know that community college
students are very diverse. They’re coming from lots
of different backgrounds, they have lots of different
challenges, assets, competing demands as I said earlier. And so some people have put forth that what we really need to do is focus on some of the non-academic, whether that is food
insecurity, stress, trauma, childcare, parking. How do you guys think about
that relative to some of the more academic proposals
in trying to improve outcomes? Should community colleges be engaging in these broader sets of concerns? – I’ll just take a quick stab
at it; yes, and they are. I think that if you
look at guided pathways, the second part of it
is to try to identify when students fall off the
pathway, and then figure out why and get them back on. Sometimes that’s because of
academic challenges they have, and sometimes it’s because
of non-academic challenges. And a lot of colleges are moving towards a case management approach. Wanna talk about investment
needs to be made? The 500 to one advisor-to-student
ratio does not work. If you want a case management approach, you’ve got to get it down
to 150 or 175 or even lower. But it’s really trying to meet
every student where they are. And sometimes it’s as simple
as, my car broke down, and there are emergency
loans available to students or emergency grants available to students. Sometimes there’s food
insecurity and sometimes it is I don’t really get the material and I don’t have time to
go to the tutoring center. So you have to deal with
the academic side of that. But I do think that
recognizing all that we know and thanks to Sarah
Goldrick-Rab we know a lot more about the number of
students who are in hunger. She’s a professor at Temple now, who’s done terrific work
on surveying students, and it’s shown that food
insecurity is a big problem on community college campuses
and it’s gotta be dealt with. I think the assumption that
when we see students struggling that we know the problem,
that it’s, number one, you can just say to them,
go to the tutoring center. Well, number one, students
don’t do optional, they’re not gonna show
up at the tutoring center if they’ve got a job to go to. We’re gonna have to figure
out some ways of building that into the classroom and
making it easier for them. And number two, we
shouldn’t assume we know what the problem is
unless we really ask them and come up with solutions that
address what they’re doing. So I think this is what
the advising reform that’s part of guided
pathways is all about. Which is trying to figure
out a range of academic and non-academic supports for students, that face other challenges.
– But Josh, it could be partnering with
community-based organizations. It doesn’t have to be the
institution itself, right? – That’s right.
– So like community colleges
work have a service area, and that’s one thing they do very well. They know who they’re
serving because it’s limited. They’re not trying to compete with the selectives in significant ways. So but there are
community-based organizations that know that community better, so the institution doesn’t
have to do it all themselves. – Terrific point.
– And I do think that that makes a lot of sense
too, what’s feasible, what’s doable for an institution
in taking all of this on. – So I’ve heard we need better leadership, we need better teaching quality, we need more wraparound
services to deal with students who have food insecurity
and other serious issues, guided pathways, a lot
of different things. What I don’t hear in this is
any idea that that will scale, because every college needs
something slightly different and that’s all contextual and local. The only thing that will fix
all of those problems at once is more resources. And so I can’t believe I’m saying this as a card-carrying economist, but all this discussion of how
community colleges can do better with what they have feels second-order, relative to the fact that we have a goal of trying to get many, many,
many more people to complete a much higher quality
education they currently have, and we need to spend more money on it if it’s a societal priority. So I’m not saying that
these things don’t matter, they matter a lot, but
it does sort of feel like we’re sort of giving the game away by
saying we have to work with a fixed budget. I’m not, no one here
saying that, but I think it’s important to say that any real effort at increasing completion goals or making access to higher
education truly different than what it is today
has to be about a bargain where one side of the bargain
is getting more to work with, and the other side is how do you make yourself more efficient? – But there’s no evidence
that colleges with more money do better on some of these other metrics. I agree with you, we need to invest more–
– I don’t think that’s true. – In higher ed.
– Go ahead. David, what’s the evidence? – So I mean I have a recent
paper with Chris Walters where we show this. I don’t wanna get into
all the gory details. – Well this was your
ticket onto the panel, so. (chuckling) – Only reason I’m here, well
at least I know one person– – He did not share this paper beforehand. – At least one person believes story. So, no and there’s other studies, I mean if you think about,
okay, what is the evidence that spending matters
for higher education? It’s really not just our paper. I think that the ASAP
program is actually evidence that spending matters. You spend more money to
complete an agreement. You look at what ASAP is doing, it’s not some special formula that no one’s ever tried before. It’s the things that Harvard College does for their undergrads. Lots of support for
students, lots of adult time, paying attention to a
variety of student needs. You all know that when
you and your colleagues were in undergrad it wasn’t
just about academic support, it was everything else in your life. And so we know what works. We spend more money on giving students a more guided experience and
they complete at higher rates. And so I don’t really
think we’re in this world where we have no idea how to do it. I think we have a world
where we don’t have enough to do it with. And so–
– And then do we have the will to invest in this population that’s at community colleges?
– Of course. – This is the question, where
will the funding come from? – Yeah, I think, I’m not trying to say that none of these, that
these efficiency improvements or like ways of, I’m not trying
to say those don’t matter. They matter a lot; I just, I don’t think that if you only, I think
if we did all these things that we all wanna do, we could
get the completion rate up from 40 to 50%, but we’re not
gonna to get it to 80 or 90%. If you look at the history
of US educational attainment, how did we get to be a world
leader in the 20th century? It was with mass secondary education. We were the first country in the world to make high school almost
universally available as opposed to more elite
track systems in Europe where the pipeline narrows a lot. And we did that by funding
it at the local level in a very decentralized way. It wasn’t federal bureaucrats saying, this is what a high school looks like. It was local communities perceiving a need to educate people so they could work in factories that were local. And so we levied local property taxes to fund local schools. And to me that’s a story more really about resources than it is
about finding some secret sauce and propagating it all across the country. – So where is the money gonna come from? (laughing)
– Well, you know.. – I’m so glad to be moderator and not one of the panel. I don’t actually have to give answers. – So one thing that I
do want to pick up on in what David said is there’s a notion that… and you didn’t say this exactly,
but I heard it, which is, more resources means more spending. Right?
– Yeah. – More public spending.
– Yeah, that’s right. – Right.
– Yeah. You could argue that in the case of, say, California community colleges, that they should raise their tuition. I mean their tuition is very
low, covered by a Pell Grant. – That’s one way to get more
resources for institutions. – But it’s not something
we often talk about, because the free college
conversation has been so, right, has been so sort
of prominent, let’s say. So just like, listen, listen, play it out. You got nursing programs where the return to
becoming registered nurse is quite high. You’ve got enormous wait list
to get into nursing programs in community colleges, and
often in four-years sometimes. Part of the reason you
have that is because the tuition is so low that
you cannot afford to enroll the student on the margin. You can’t cover the cost of educating. So the question then is, is the right conversation a mix of public and private resources? Whether the private
resources come from students or from hospital systems
or from other places. – Somebody’s payin’. The taxpayer, a student.
– Yeah. But resources typically
in this conversation only has one, essentially means
state or federal investment. And again I don’t think you
were saying that specifically, but I do think it’s
important to clarify it, to clarify that, and so
I’ll just leave it at that. – So I want to come back to this point. I think that if you add investment, you’re gonna replicate what we’re getting and you’re gonna get more of
it, which is a good thing. But I don’t know that you’re gonna change the mix of what needs to happen. And so to me it’s not clear
that an increased investment is going to change the mix of outcomes. We just may get more of the same mix, which would be good and
that’s why I support a public investment. And to this point, where’s
the money gonna come from within the institutions? So at the same time you’re
increasing the nursing program, why are you offering
as many slots, if any, in things like massage
therapy and culinary arts and some of the things where we actually don’t
see great outcomes? Why are you offering general education associate’s degrees
without a clear pathway to a four-year degree? Maybe you should put more resources there. I actually think, within institutions, if we change the incentive structure and the information available to them, there is actually a change in
the mix within institutions that also would be needed. And the question is who’s gonna do that? Who’s going to incentivize
or lead the institution to change that mix? I think public policy can do
away with some of the low, so the really poor performing programs. And we’ve seen some
states like Kentucky say, if it’s not a high-wage,
high-demand field, we’re not gonna approve a new program. So I think states can start to say, and that’s not to say we
don’t care about history, like they did in Florida. It is tricky. – ‘Cause it’s, a high-wage
program is a high, that means high private
benefits to the person going, not necessarily high social benefit. So a lot of programs
that you want to support because they have social value even if the wage returns
are not very high– – So you can make that decision, so you can make that decision,
I mean whatever you wanna say is the value that we wanna invest in, but I don’t think anybody thinks that more massage therapists
who are unemployed or earning minimum wage is necessarily gonna help our society; forgive me, for all of those who
are massage therapists. – That’s not even the core of this. I mean you can get rid of
those things potentially and put it in the private market, but this is about community colleges who have a high
concentration of low-income, first-generation students who
see it as an access point, who have fundamentally less resources than all these others. And our expectation is that these students that have more need than others are in institutions that have
less resources than others. And we expect that they are
going to do as well or better with less money, and so I do think that we’re setting ourselves
up for failure here. And ultimately we blame the students for not being successful when we set it up in a no-win situation. So the opportunity to say, okay, if we know these things work at Harvard, can we implement them, are
they gonna work the same way? Like degree plans. My first semester I knew
what I was going to do for my first, my complete four years, and I finished in four years. But how often you see
that at community college? And how often are we doing the things we know work in those places? And it’s not efficient,
I mean we have students who don’t even finish and have 90 credits trying to transfer to a four-year. So I do agree that there
are some efficiency things. I think the challenge of the resources is the expectation that
we’re gonna see more by investing less in these
institutions and these students. I think that’s a fundamental
challenge we face in public policy. We’re not getting that right, and then we’re looking at
outcomes, expecting the same. – So if I were to summarize
some of the solutions you’re putting forth, some are, community colleges know
what they need to do but the faculty workload is such that and the the adviser to
student ratio is so high, that if we were to drop
100 people on every campus, things would improve’ ,cause
we know what needs to be done and we just need more
people to provide it. On the other hand I’m also
hearing we need to do some things that are radically different, we need to learn about new practices and change the way that
we’re doing things. And so that’s kind of what
I’m hearing on both sides. – Those things can both
be true at the same time. – I do think–
– And can I, suggest an addendum?
– Yeah. – Because I hope you
didn’t think you were gonna put that list out there
without an addendum. But dropping 100 people
in and potentially, again back to this question about are they new resources
or do you reallocate? Potentially moving out some
people from the organization who are not delivering value effectively. So some of this is that we layer, I mean vendor, I know this for a fact, vendors call every single department that they can get their hands on with a new solution for whether it’s data analytics or whatever, and then everybody implements
it, but nothing ever change, nothing ever goes away. Whoever the old, the IR shop still exists. So there’s a sort of a layering approach, which I think is actually
some what you were saying, which is just scaling, just
scaling every best practice is kind of a recipe for
more of this layering. So I do think it’s about
100 people dropping in. But we also need to take a look at are they replacing 50 or 25? – Let me ask the panel
on one more question, then I want to open it up for the audience to ask questions as well. So we have talked to a bunch about what’s the federal government gonna do or what community colleges can do. Andrew, you started to kind of allude to where I wanna go with this question, which is what about the private sector? Or what about the four-year institutions? Or what about the high schools, the other players around
community colleges? Do they have some responsibility here and could they help with these problems? – Yes.
(laughing) Yeah this is the challenge
of this kind of conversation, is that we wanna push a silver bullet because we’re public policy, but the point about alignment is that it’s not just any one entity. And it’s not just faculty,
although it is faculty. It’s not just leadership,
although it is leadership. It’s about having good data, but it’s not just about good data. So you know the private
role is significant in some simple ways. They’re also consumers
of the products created through the colleges, so they can demand and they
can invest in the enterprise that is community college
to get the students, the workers that they need. But they need to be included
and seen as partners in that effort. And we’re seeing good community
colleges are doing that. I mean I think some of
the stuff you’ve seen in the Aspen prize, that’s clear in some of the institutions
we work with, that, rather than thinking that the employers need to be out of the
space because the integrity and how solemn our academic
experience must be, bringing them in creates a
dynamism that engages students as well as institutions, so I do think there is a core private role. I do think it needs to be done with clarity and partnership, and there is useful
tension in that process. – So I think all of those
outside entities matter for community colleges, for K-12, four-year colleges, employers and community-based organizations. And in our fellowship
program with the school on the west coast that I
don’t wanna mention here, maybe a rival. That we run with them–
– Co-author. – Yes.
– Hangs out with you a lot. – Yes, yes, that we do with Stanford. We teach internal change management and we teach this notion
of strategic partnership. Let me just mention on the K-12 side, so right now there are
nine or 10 million students in community college. Something like six
million are degree seeking or taking credit classes. A million of those students, we think, are high school students
engaged in dual enrollment. It’s 15%, maybe 20% in
many places, it’s enormous. And one thing we really
don’t know very well is whether the four kinds
of advanced coursework that are available to
high school students, meaning AP, IB, Early College High School, which is sort of different
model and then dual enrollment, which is probably
rivaling at this point AP, I mean it’s huge. We really don’t know
what the outcomes are. And so I think K-12 needs
to get in the game here, and say what are we doing to connect all of those opportunities
to guided pathways, if that’s where the movement is. What are we doing to
actually help students learn the math they need
for their degree programs? Instead of assuming
that everybody should be on the calculus track. I think there’s a whole bunch of things that K-12 can get in the game, and we’ve seen great examples where you see really good alignment between K-12 expectations
and college expectations. Not just for entry but
for programs of study that yield great results for students. But it requires that K-12
starts to think of itself as well as responsible, and the way the Kipp schools had. As responsible for college
attainment and beyond, and own that in partnership with colleges. There are terrific examples, but I think just as we need
colleges to raise their sights to post graduation success, we need K-12 to really double down on college and
career-ready in real ways in partnership with community colleges. So I think it can be done
and it’s hugely important. – Okay. – I’ll just say quickly, one of the things we’ve done in North Carolina is we’ve, on the four-year side, is we have signed every one of our
16 four-year institutions onto what we’re calling
a performance agreement. They have to aim for particular goals on particular measures. One of the measures we
use is a measure called undergraduate degree efficiency, degrees produced per 100
full-time equivalent students. You do much better on that measure if you enroll transfer students. ‘Cause they’re only
there for half the time, but you get credit for the full degree. So suddenly our institutions
are scrambling around to say, gosh, we should
develop more transfer pathways ’cause it’s gonna help us
do better on that measure. It also helps us in our
local communities and so on. There’s other reasons to do it, but you have to, like right now obviously the federal graduation rate says forget about transfer students, don’t pay any attention
to them, they don’t count, don’t worry about it, if you
wanna rise on that measure, actually pay less attention to ’em, because they just dilute the resources for your first-time full-time students. So you gotta kind of
change the way you measure. And what you measure and
what you value as well at the system or state level. To encourage that, so. – Okay. – I’m sure they want
to ask some questions. I’ll hold the comment.
(chuckling) – Okay, I want to open
it up for the audience. I do want to ask that
we do focus on questions rather than commentary and
try to keep your questions less than 30 seconds,
so we can try to include as many voices as possible, thank you. – Hi, Jed Schwartz, I’m
a writer from Somerville. And it seems to me that maybe some of you agree that the the question of whether tuition should be free or not has
seemed to have been bypassed perhaps by much of this
discussion, because it seems to me that if the
discussion were centered around not whether it should be free but how to motivate community
college students better, then the question would be,
well we should lower tuition but make tuition rebates a possibility, based upon accomplishments. I realize this is a fairly far-out idea but perhaps some of you could react to it. – What do you think of this
idea of not free up front but rebates if you do certain things or– – Yeah, no I remember what I
was in the Department of Ed. Many of you have Hope scholarships. The original idea of free
college was two years at the Clinton administration
then when doing tax credits instead and that doesn’t
work for low-income people, that you have to have the money up front to then get it back later. – I’m saying you lower the, reduce the… – Well the opposite
would be you make it free and then you make people pay
it back if they don’t finish. That would be the other way to,
I mean that’s a little more, I mean it’s actually in
principle it’s the same, but it doesn’t feel the same. – Spoken like an economist. – So we are actually seeing– – Texas started to do that, actually. They just didn’t market it
well and it didn’t work. – So we are actually seeing
some colleges and states toy with the idea of incentives to increase credit intensity. So anything over 12 credits is free. The federal definition of
full-time is 12 credits, but at 12 credits you can’t finish in two years, a two-year
degree, right, problem. So the point is, anything
over 12 credits is free, so that that incentivizes people to take that extra three credits. You could think about moving
from six to nine credits. I mean I think we’ve
got to be very careful. The students who can’t go full-time don’t enjoy these benefits,
so it could be regressive if we don’t really think about making it available to others. But I do think that notion of incentives seems to work in credit intensity, and people are trying,
and there’s good evidence that even going full-time one semester increases your graduation rates. They’ve run some experiments, increases your graduation rate. So I think trying to think about
the incentives for behavior that doesn’t punish
students who are low income, who can’t complete because
of life circumstances, but incentivizes behavior
that aligns with completion I think is a promising area. – There’s a pay, we have
this marginal tuition. We have this sort of tuition for everything over 12 is free. There’s a paper on this by Steve Hamilton, and some co-author–
– Kevin. – Kevin Stallion, that’s right. It shows it’s not really,
it doesn’t really affect credit accumulation. So and I think part of that’s because people have missed the fact
that if you take another class, you have to spend time on
that class rather than work. So there’s kind of, it’s not free, right? To your point, it’s not free. There’s an opportunity
cost to be taking enough, to taking that extra class so I do think, Indiana, or instance, has
said you get extra money on our state grant program
if you take 30 credits. You can enroll at this higher rate, and if you do that with a 3.0 you can, so I do think that’s another
way to think about this, is rather than just do, the flat pricing I think make sense in general, but I don’t think it actually changes the behavior based on– – Well we should have
some evidence on this. We have a national experiment
going where we’re told students, if you take
an additional credit, you get a larger Pell Grant. Stay tuned.
– Oh, right. Your question.
– Hi, my name’s Rachel Lipson. I’m a joint MBA student
and public policy student at the Business School
in the Kennedy School. My question is a little bit on this connection to good jobs question of around the community college system. we’ve referenced a
little bit about the role that community colleges
play in providing mobility and economic opportunity, but
also how siloed the system is and individual schools
working pretty autonomously. When you think about the fact
that a lot of these schools are in communities where the demand just might not be there for higher jobs that require the credentials
and associate’s degrees that these schools are producing, even if the institutions themselves are doing a great job
of producing students. If there’s no jobs there
at the end of the day in their community, what’s the next step? So I would be curious to
hear your thoughts on this general geographic mobility question. We’ve seen the data that less Americans are moving than ever before, in the last 67 years. Particularly acute for youth. What do you think is the role of the community college can play in perhaps fostering,
sharing of information about where there is
economic opportunities so that a student who completes
can actually go somewhere where they can really realize the return to that degree or credential? And see a subsequent increase in wages and opportunity for them. – That’s a really good question. – Yeah I think for the
majority of community colleges, changing the mix will improve things, but for some it’s hard. So I actually think the degree
of difficulty in rural places that are frankly struggling
to attract employers and when they do, they’re call centers where there are minimum-wage jobs, which I don’t think community
colleges by and large should be educating people for, it’s a really hard question. And leaders in these institutions, they’re called community
colleges for a reason. They view themselves as community leaders and as deliverers of
education for students. And it’s really hard to say, we’re gonna help people get credentials so that they can go to the
big city and get a job. That’s not an adequate answer for them. The best example, I think the degree, the best example I’ve seen of this is Walla Walla Community College in eastern Washington state, where in 1999 it was a dying community. And in essence the president,
who is a labor economist, actually looked ahead
and made some big bets. They made a big bet on nursing
and they convinced the state to invest hugely in nursing. And they now are a
regional supply of nurses. They made a big bet on wine making. And they talked to the local employers, so it wasn’t just looking at
data, it was talking to people. And they went from seven to 250 vineyards. They now bring in two
million dollars a weekend on wine weekends, it’s
a town of 20,000 people. Unemployment rate’s come way down. They made a big bet on wind energy, because they saw and on water
management in agriculture. So they looked ahead and
tried to make some bets, some based on data and
some based on a vision. And now Walla Walla is
a thriving community, whereas in ’99 in the
wake of NAFTA passing, where high-value agricultural
production was drying up, they were really
struggling as a community. And so I do think that at their best, community colleges can, with employers really as
part of the community, be part of revitalizing a community. That is easier said than done. I’ve only seen it in a couple of places. But I think when you don’t have the jobs, as a educational institution, if you start to think of
yourself as a talent developer, if you have talent you can
build businesses around talent. It’s a different way of
thinking about things. It’s hard, sequentially,
to build the program and the jobs aren’t there yet. How do you decide which to do first? You’ve gotta get businesses on board, and you’ve gotta get some
investment at the front end. It really worked in Walla Walla, and it’s a case study that I think a lot of rural community
colleges could take lessons from. But it’s a really hard question that for most presidents that I talk to who are in that situation, I don’t know how to answer.
– In long perspective, it is surely true. Why is Ann Arbor a town that
has any economic activity? Why’s Ithaca that way? And why are many towns,
look at Chapel Hill. All these places at some
point had a college in them, and eventually became thriving economies. And like that can’t be an accident. So the interesting thing about, I’ve flipped the question around, which is basically the answer
is the colleges may actually, it may be the role of
colleges in developing talent that’s causing the employers to come, rather than employers
coming to the colleges. May actually be, certainly in longer run, historical perspective
the way it’s happened. – One thing to just add on to that, is what the point that Josh made about, our job is to train folks
who go off to the big city. That is the North Carolina
story in a nutshell. The rural counties, what
we call tier 1 counties, are hemorrhaging people,
they’re all leaving. They’re all going to
the Research Triangle, Charlotte and the Triad. And politically that has made
higher ed actually vulnerable, because the voters that have
to vote for bond initiatives and for legislators who
fund the system say, but that’s the system that just hoovers up our best people, it takes
them out of our communities. So we think about this all the time. How do we convince more
graduates to go back? And from our system in
particular, to go back and teach and serve as nurses and
do rural health care? – So one thing I’d add on the other side is that we’re seeing institutions, community colleges, teach
more about entrepreneurship. So it’s not just the
institution that’s helping to drive and connect with workers, but it’s educating the students
to become entrepreneurs, to invest in the community themselves. So I just would add that. So it’s not just about the institution. – A great question, many examples; please. – Hello my name is Josue
Lavandeira, I’m a student in the International Education
Policy master’s here. And my question is, even if
you’re able as institutions to offer free college education, you still have a limited
number of resources, limited infrastructure, limited faculty. So there’s a limited number of
students that you can serve. How do you discriminate, how do you choose who gets
in, who gets left out? And how do you prevent this process from furthering the gap between
those who get to this point with a good education and
those who get to this point with serious disadvantages? – Beauty and beast of community colleges is they’re supposed to be open access. So it’s putting in some
measures of selectivity overtly, our challenge to do, we’ve
seen institutions do it. If you don’t register by a certain period, we don’t think you’re gonna be successful. So we make sure that their period, so there are things that have been done. Say if you’re not following the rules, if you’re not doing X Y and Z, then you’re automatically eliminated, as opposed to being overtly selective. But… – Yeah in California, so I
think the California story is a really good one. We saw that California has a huge amount of continuing adult education. So my aunt who lives, Rachelle,
if you’re watching this, forgive me for telling your story. She goes to Santa Monica College, and she takes her yoga class there. And a few years ago they ended
it, and she was up in arms. I was out visiting her. How can you let them do this,
stop this from happening. – A true California story. – No this really is.
(laughing) And I said but they had to make a choice between holding on to the math 101 class that would enable students to pursue their degrees, and this other class frankly and they had a cap on tuition. Those are considered
credit-bearing classes there, so that they get the 91
dollars per credit hour. It’s crazy; they need to raise
tuition for those things. – Yoga?
– Yoga. Now in California, and but it
was seen as an entitlement, and so I do think that colleges
are gonna have to start making some choices,
sometimes those choices will be rational, like those, although the president of
Santa Barbara City College, right after winning the Aspen prize as the best community
college in the country, got voted out precisely for this reason. Because the community
was up in arms on her shutting down continuing
education programs. So I think there’s a real challenge there. But I think the risk you mentioned is that they could cut off access for the hardest to serve students, especially now that people are seeing that developmental or remedial education doesn’t actually get students
all the way to a degree. They could cut off access to that, and that is, I think, really dangerous. Because if the incentive is enrollment and completion, and you have no incentive to serve hard-to-serve students, it’s really easy to maintain enrollment and improve completion; you just cut off the
hardest to serve students. – In fact we’ve seen kind of the opposite. We’ve seen community colleges trying to get into the four-year
space, further expanding, to grow rather than cutting back too. So that’s–
– It’s a huge risk, and I think policy
systems have got to have some risk adjustments
associated with them. So the colleges get credit for working with hard-to-serve students and graduating the students
who come least prepared and who are growing in
numbers in our society. We need to develop that talent, and colleges should be rewarded for that. – Okay I really wanna get
these last two questions in. Yes.
– Yeah. Thanks for coming tonight. So I come through this lens as
like an aspiring entrepreneur in this space, focus
on community colleges. So I’m wondering, I’ve heard both tonight, the need for more money
and for more bodies. And so the conundrum there is that we’re having some states
do free community college, but the schools are not
hiring more people to do that. So I’m wondering, what do
you see as the opportunity for vendors or aspiring
vendors in this space? As you’re having more bodies
go to community colleges in states that are doing
like Tennessee and so forth. Where do you see the opportunity? And also what is the conversation
around personalization? Because I know for myself we’re
trying to do, as you said, ASAP does something that’s not new. I’m trying to take tech
and people to do the things that we know like nudging,
creating identity, you know getting people to personalize that pathway for them. But community colleges
are extremely challenging because of that funding and so I’m saying, hey, we can help you with this and potentially be less
money or a lot less money than hiring someone, because
you have those constraints, not because we want to
automate everything. But how can we balance that automation plus that get those peoples for you, like whether it’s interns like from BC that are working for
me that kind of thing? So I’m wondering, what do you see in the landscape of
opportunity for vendors as free community college expands? And what do you see around the language around personalization
and the opportunity there? – Mm. I mean I would just say, so it has nothing to do
with technology really, but I would say that one
of the things I think that’s lacking in the
national conversation is the College Advising
Corps has done an amazing job of solving a problem, on a limited scale, but solving a problem that they saw, which is high counselor-student
ratio in high schools. So they’ve placed recent college grads, it’s more like a Teach for America model. It’s almost like an AmeriCorps,
Teach for America deal. Those guys, they’re all
over North Carolina, and what I’ve talked
with some of the folks that got the Advising Corps about is, well what if some of those
students then moved on to our institutions and
instead served as kind of student success coaches? Like once they, ’cause they
understand the students who are going into our system. What if they then kind of
graduated from the high school and then went and sat at
one of our institutions? So I do think that there’s kind
of a student success coach, a near-peer student success coach kind of window of opportunity. It’s not really necessarily
a tech initiative, but I do think that
that’s one potential area that is interesting. – I think often our responses
were tied to what you could do with existing resources, because
a lot of community colleges don’t have tons of
resources to be innovative, to do things that, ’cause that’s
like a long-term investment to see that return on
what you’re talking about. So tech is gonna change, and
they’re short-term oriented, because they’re waiting
for that next infusion. Or with free college they
know exactly what they have, so a lot of slush fund money to try different things is a challenge. I don’t know that that’s
an answer but I do find that the resistance is, I mean they see the potential and they want to help their students, but finding that you’ve
got to make the case, like low-income students, a bird in the hand is
worth two in the bush. They want that guarantee and
if you can give them that… – Yeah, so we just did a
technology adoption workshop for 20 institutions in Florida
from around the country. It’s part of the Gates project
called the Frontiers Adam. I would say two things. One is, make sure you’re solving
a problem that they have. Don’t create a solution to a problem they don’t think they have. And so I had one of the MOOCs
calling me all the time. We have this high-quality content. Great, what’s the problem
you’re trying to solve that they have? Well their content isn’t that good. Do they know that, do they think that? So what’s the problem you’re
trying to solve that they have? That’s number one; number two, make sure that they have their
business processes in place to use your technology well. The number that have
bought technologies that they haven’t set up their
business processes to use, is they ought to have kept them in the box and returned them, and
all I’ll say is that, especially as a start-up, if
you’re looking for use cases that will be successful,
make sure you’re working with colleges that understand what they’re trying to accomplish and have their business processes in shape so that the technology can actually do what it’s designed to do. Those would just be two
things that I would recommend. – Thank you.
– And just thank you so much, just
briefly, last questions. – Thank you Bridget; hi my name’s Trent. Alumni the higher ed
master’s program last year. Related to the previous question, what do you see as the
role of online education in the community college space? For example Governor Brown,
the governor of California just proposed 100 million
dollars going to an endeavor in California to create an
online community college. Speaking of money and resources,
that’s a lot in my opinion. So, curious to hear your opinions. – So I’ll say something
that’s maybe controversial. Is this thing recorded? Just kidding.
(laughing) – Yes, now. (laughing) – I would call myself an online skeptic when it comes to higher ed. And the reason I’m a skeptic
is because I really do think it’s not a product like other things where you can, it’s really
more of an interaction between students and teacher. And I think about my own
teaching, when it’s working well it’s not something I’d
ever be able to pick up when I’m on video. I think the hard part is not designing what you’re going to say in advance and preparing your
materials, it’s how you react when things don’t go the way
you would have predicted. And you don’t know how to react if you’re not making a
connection with people in the room, and so I think
there are lots of innovations having to do with technology
that I think of as putting the right people together. But I’m very skeptical that we can do what we’re doing with
less personal contact. I actually think that’s one
of the essential elements, and so to me the work I’ve
done in online education, I typically see it as, you’re
spending less to get less, not you’re spending the same to get, I don’t see much evidence
that online education is increasing efficiency. The really high-quality
online education models are very expensive, and so
to me it’s kind of gimmicky. A lot of times, not all the time. And it’s an effort to look for a shortcut, which I totally understand,
given the world we’re living in, but I haven’t seen anything that… one thing I’ll say is, this is kind of history of technology. If you look at not just
education but other places. Typically we think of
technology’s gonna replace us, robots are gonna take all of our jobs. That’s never what happens. Instead it changes the nature of the job. And so you might predict,
I think accurately, that when Raj Chetty or
whoever, superstar lecturer, takes my place on economics
of education class, like my role will be to
work with the students to help meet them where they are and be more of a coach and a mentor and less of a lecturer on a big stage. And so that’s not a story
about replacing people, it’s a story about
changing what people do. – I do think, to our conversation
about marginal dollars, I think one of the things
that frustrates me about this is that there’s a lot of articles about the 100 million
dollar, however much it was, in California, fewer articles
about the CSU program, the Cal State program
which imploded and is gone. And those resources are gone. Or the University of Texas’s Center on Innovation and
Learning, I’m getting it wrong, but now shuttered, 90 million dollars. So I mean there are, to David’s
point, there are things, there’s a lot more pock
marks on that road, I think, than there are successes. And so I think, we’re struggling with this in our system right now. What’s the play, how do
you use it effectively? – I would like to see it
used as a quality play, but it’s typically an
efficiency and access play. And I think until faculty get involved and having a goal for
teaching and learning and start to realize that online education or technology-aided education can actually help them achieve the teaching
and learning goals they have, it’s gonna continue to be used that way. And I think typically
these things are used on college campuses as
sort of a skunk-works or seen by faculty as not related to them, or a way to create efficiency for them. So it’s too broad a brush stroke. I’m sure there are, Candice
Steel’s doing great work, or she was until she went to Amazon, out of Stanford working
with colleges to use it as a quality. I think it’s got great
potential to improve quality but I agree with the other
panelists that by and large it’s not being used to improve quality, and that’s gonna require
getting faculty engaged in defining what they want
to do to improve teaching and learning, and using
technology to adapt to that. – And a really great question. I mean I just wish we had more time. We could do a whole to Askwith
just on online education and higher education. But please join me in thanking
our panelists this evening. – Thanks everybody.
(applauding) Good audience.